Wanna Flag? Part 2 - What to Wear
So you read our last article and you said to yourself, “That looks like fun. I think I’ll try it. And, there is all that free beer (and soda) at the end of the day”. As with most endeavors, it is a lot more fun if you are properly prepared. In this article we will review the proper attire from head to toe for the well-dressed flagger.
Conditions out on station vary from 90+ degree temperatures with bright sun to cold, rainy, windy miserable days; you need to be ready for both and everything in between. Beginning at the top, head protection is very important. A light colored ball cap will reflect the sun’s rays and shade the eyes. Although a hat with a circular brim will give more shade, it makes using a radio head set or hearing protectors more difficult. A watch cap or cap with ear flaps is mighty nice, when it is really cold and windy out there, regardless of how nerdy you look.
Sunglasses are a must, not only for UV protection but also to protect your eyes from flying bits of dust, gravel, tire rubber and, occasionally, car parts. Waterproof or “sport” sunscreen is also very important. It will protect exposed skin from sun and windburn. Apply it liberally at the morning flag meeting and before you go out again after lunch. Chapstick (with sunscreen) will also protect your lips from the elements. A bandana can also protect your neck from the sun and, when soaked in ice water, cool you off quickly. Keep a whistle around your neck, on a breakaway lanyard, to signal other flaggers and the occasional driver.
All clothing should be cotton. Synthetics will not only support combustion but also stick to your skin when exposed to flame, increasing your chance of a serious burn. White is the preferred color for visibility as well as for reflecting the heat of the sun. Long sleeved shirts protect your arms against sun and possible flame. Get a shirt with at least one pocket to hold a small pad and pen for notes. Also, get a shirt large enough to allow for air circulation on hot days and layering on cool days.
White pants are often hard to find. I get heavy cotton duck painter’s pants from Sherwin-Williams paint stores or on-line at . Occasionally, you can find them at Salvation Army thrift stores. Please be sure you are buying 100% cotton. Painter’s pants have the added advantage of lots of extra pockets. Some flaggers prefer coveralls. These can be good in the summer because you can wear shorts underneath and they too have lots of pockets. They also make layering easy. White, 100% cotton coveralls are hard to find but Wear Guard has them, and for a modest charge they will embroider your name on them. The only downside to coveralls is when you have to use the Porta-Potty (female flaggers take note).
Good footwear is very important because you are standing all day. I prefer wool socks because they are warm even when wet and are not that much hotter in warm weather. Also, if you sweat, they don’t stick like cotton. SmartWool make a great sock with elastic support. They are pricey, but worth it...and they last forever. Hiking boots are preferred over sneakers; they have good arch and ankle support and many are waterproof.
Last on the list, protection for your hands. The ideal glove would be Nomex with leather palms, the same as those the drivers wear. They are expensive, but the protection is important. Some flaggers use welder’s gloves. They offer good protection and reasonable cost with some loss of dexterity. A high visibility color such as blaze orange makes it easier to signal drivers and other workers. I also pack a pair of orange, thermal lined, Gore-Tex hunting gloves for cold weather. Now is the season to get almost anything in blaze orange. Check out the hunting department at Walmart.
What about flagging in the rain? (Who can forget the 2004 RAL weekend at NHIS). With wool socks and waterproof hiking boots you’re all set. All you need is rain protection for the rest of you. Although yellow rain suits are easy to find, they will not be allowed on station because they look like a yellow flag. For the same reason red will not be allowed. White rain gear has been hard to come by until now. Donna Stevens has some really nice white rain suits for sale at a reasonable price. Please see her NER/SCCA Merchandise Order Form in any issue of PIT TALK or contact her directly at 603-424-2227. A hood on your rain gear not only keeps your head dry, but also, more importantly, it keeps the radio headset dry…and for that Doug White will thank you. The orange, waterproof hunting gloves work great in the rain.
Now is the time to start getting your gear together. You have several months before next year’s first event to rummage through catalogues and thrift shops. Perhaps a pair of Nomex fire gloves would make a good holiday gift. In our next article, we will cover your track bag and what to put in it.